I’ve been homeschooling now for five years, but it’s only been “official” in the eyes of the state for one year. Well, maybe I’ve been homeschooling for almost eight years as my son is almost eight, and truly every child receives the start of his/her education from home, whether the parent thinks of it that way or not. We all start our learning at home.
I still remember the first time my eldest wrote his name. We made a birthday card for his great-grandfather, and my boy was four. I even took a picture because I was so excited for what he had accomplished.
And his first word that he read? Box. I have it on video. It was one of my most exciting moments as a mom. He was four. We were playing some kind of reading game. I only started working with him because he was interested in learning. He and I would work only as long as he was focused, and sometimes days went by without another “lesson”. He loved that game, and I used it to help my second-born learn to read as well. That “aha” moment of watching my sons learn to read has been the best. (It trumps learning to ride a bike in my memory, but that’s probably because I’m not all that outdoorsy.
Even though my husband and I agreed several years ago that we wanted to actually provide our children with a formal education at home, and even though “we” are only rising 3rd and 1st graders (with a preschooler in tow), we’ve heard criticism and doubts and questions since the first day we expressed our desires aloud. It’s not hard to doubt one’s ability to fulfill a duty (or a dream!) when so many voices influence your mind toward that direction. Buuuut, we did it anyway.
I’m really thankful that just as we were ready to get started really getting our school together I simultaneously started meeting more and more moms in my area who also homeschool. Regardless of what type of schooling your family does, you need a support system. You need a group of folks who are on the same path who will cheer you on when the going gets tough. I don’t care if you’re in public, private, charter, or home, school is hard. Teaching is hard. Parenting is hard. It’s easier, even if only just a bit, when we know we’re not alone in our journey. My BFF Angela is forever my listening ear as I badger her with questions about what she did with her four boys.
We are finishing up our second grade year with the eldest boy and kindergarten with the middle. Phew. I spent so many days wondering if I was doing it “right” or even doing it well. Honestly, I don’t have anyone standing over me telling me what curriculum to use or how to teach or even on what schedule everything must be done. I’m totally a check list girl, and I’m also that girl that panics just a little bit when the deadline comes and all the items aren’t completed. This makes homeschooling really hard for me, and I know that I have consequently put undue pressure on my son.
When I was pregnant last year (miscarried in November), I was so tired and even sick that homeschool days happened, but they were light. There was also a two-week period in the fall when we had guests living with us, and their bedroom was our schoolroom. Then of course there are illnesses, family visits, etc. My mind’s timetable was lopsided, and I have felt super anxious about it all. Is my kid “on target”?
This year he had to take his first end-of-grade exam for the state. I chose the test and was able to administer it at home. Truthfully I prayed and prayed so that I would make it a calm and cool environment so that he would have absolutely no pressure to make a certain score. I just wanted to know what he knows. We got the results a few days ago, and I. Was. Floored. He did so well!
I didn’t set any expectations for his scores before I administered the exam. I didn’t really know what to expect. I just kept hoping that I’d taught him what he should know for his age and grade level, you know, because sometimes I still feel like I have to keep up with the grade he is “supposed” to be. He exceeded what I ever dreamed. I say this not to boast. Not at all. In fact, my husband said, “Do you feel any better [about your pace and what you’re doing]?” And I said, “I think so? Yes?” Haha.
I’m so thankful he’s learning. I’m so thankful that even though I’ve put too much pressure on him this year that he’s still retaining. And I’m totally praying with a renewed heart that the Lord Jesus will help me to sit next to him everyday during school and have that peaceableness that I had when I gave him the CAT exam. Every. Single. Day. I count myself blessed to be able to teach my kiddos at home (even if they drive me nuts), and I love watching when that lightbulb turns on and they “get it”. Those are my favorite moments. I’m thankful to know that I’m on the right track, and I’m thankful that my boys aren’t the only ones learning along the way.